Godspeed You! Black Emperor w/ Black Dice, 03.22.2003, The Abbey Pub, Chicago
The evening started with plantain enchiladas and a cold Tecate with a close friend, and serious conversation about the whereabouts, what-abouts, and will-be-abouts of our respective lives. A somber setting for the pre-Godspeed hour, but a good way to relax before we hit the Abbey. Upon arrival, the scene was much the same as any other rock show…plenty of space left, merch table set with precious LPs and CDs, and a general aire of excitement to hear some great music performed. Black Dice took the stage at about 10pm, opening up with a a single guitar fed into a processor controled by another member of the band. Having never heard Black Dice before, I had no idea what to expect, and listened intently, trying to absorb as much in real time as I could. The first song, one of three, bounced around about as much experimentation as I could handle at the time (and don’t get me wrong….I love experimental rock), but lost me in its presentation. No particularly interesting loops, mediocre guitar work masked in the hearty confines of a DD5 pedal, taut but un-interesting drum work. The second song of the set, The Dream is Going Down, from Beaches and Canyons, offered some more interesting guitar work ala Standards era Tortoise, but only caught me for a brief period in the middle of the song. The rest of the set turned into an unhip disco set that was lost on most of the waiting crowd.
By the time Godspeed hit the stage, the Abbey was packed wall to wall, making it tough to even move a few inches in any direction. However, nobody seemed to mind too much, considering what was coming up next. We were greeted by a film projection of the word HOPE, dancing quickly through a hundred incarnations of white pen on a black background. The black background was replaced at times with an image of (what I assumed to be) an old man gently wiping frost from a clouded window, and the band started in with Lift Yr. Skinny Fists, Like Antennas to Heaven… Setting a beautiful mood with one of their most optimistic pieces, they continued the way of the album with The Gathering Storm. Folk-electric guitar melodies wrapped in blankets of cello stiched with harmonics from the violin confirmed the feeling of warmth fueled by Lift Yr. Skinny Fists as drums built up slowly, signifying the imagery of the coming storm. The band continued to play in order the sub-tracks from the side A of Lift Yr. Skinny Fists, stopping for applause only at Welcome to Barco AM/PM.
It would be nearly impossible for me to remember the entire length of their 2 hour and 15 minute set in order, but Godspeed expounded and lamented on every album in the discography. Of particular note was the first track from Yanqui U.X.O. and an encore featuring the entire length of East Hastings. We went home tired but inspired, weary but dreamy, and listening to a freshly-purchased copy of Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada.
Part 2: The Sea and Cake/Califone coming soon…